Jacques Pépin’s Salmon Rillettes

Salmon Rillettes

December 29, 2023

Salmon rillettes are an elegant, make-ahead spread, perfect for a New Year’s Eve celebration or a New Year’s Day brunch.

This is another recipe revived from the Moveable Feast vault from a meal celebrating master chef Jacques Pépin. Among the dishes served that evening, we enjoyed cold pea soup with mint, fromage blanc, chicken bouillabaisse, and espresso panna cotta.

Salmon Rillettes with toasts

What are rillettes?

Rillettes are similar to confit in which a protein is cooked and preserved in its own fat. It is most commonly made with pork but is also made with game birds and fish. In this case, rather than its own fat, the salmon rillettes are cooked in butter.

For those unfamiliar with rillettes, on first sight they may seem unappealing with its layer of fat skimming the top. In reality, the layer of fat, in this case clarified butter, protects the salmon rillettes and adds to its creamy texture when mixed in and served.

How to make salmon rillettes

While it may sound like fussy French food, these rillettes are relatively easy to make. One of the things I love about many of Jacques Pépin’s recipes are they are made easy for the home cook. He does not shun the microwave and uses it in this recipe to melt the butter. The salmon is lightly poached in the clarified butter and then mixed with the remaining ingredients.

The salmon mixture is placed in ramekins and topped with the reserved clarified butter before placing in the refrigerator to set. Once set, the rillettes may be kept in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Salmon Rillettes - close up

How to serve salmon rillettes

Remove the rillettes from the refrigerator at least 1 hour prior to serving to allow the butter to soften and the rillettes to come to room temperature. Serve with baguette toasts or crackers, maybe some cornichons on the side.

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Salmon Rillettes - close up

Salmon Rillettes

  • Author: Jacques Pépin
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 16 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x


Fresh butter-poached salmon and smoked salmon are combined in this classic and elegant spread. Served with baguette toasts, they make a lovely appetizer or first course.



8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

3 tablespoons onion, very finely chopped

6 ounces boneless, skinless salmon (belly is best), cut into 1½-inch pieces

3 ounces sliced smoked salmon, finely chopped

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon bottled horseradish


In a microwave-safe bowl, heat the butter in a microwave oven for 1 to 1½ minutes, until the clear part of the butter separates from the milky solids. Reserve ¼ cup of the clear melted butter to coat the rillettes.

Pour the rest of the melted butter, including the milky part, into a small saucepan. Add the chopped onion and cook gently over medium heat for about 2 minutes, until the onion has softened. Add the fresh salmon and mix well, then reduce the heat and cook, covered, for about 2 minutes. Mix again. The salmon should be barely cooked in the center and still a little pink. Transfer to a plate.

With a fork, crush the poached salmon into a coarse mixture. Transfer to a bowl, add the chopped smoked salmon, salt, pepper, and horseradish, and mix well.

Divide the mixture among three small ½-cup molds; the molds should be about three-quarters full. Smooth the top of each one with the back of a spoon. Pour the reserved melted butter on top. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve, let the rillettes warm up at room temperature for about 1 hour, so the salmon and butter soften a little. Then stir the top layer of butter into the rillettes and serve.

The rillettes will keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Inactive Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 6 minutes
  • Category: Spreads, Appetizers
  • Cuisine: French


  • Calories: 193.51
  • Sugar: 0.29 g.
  • Sodium: 323.17 mg.
  • Fat: 17.56 g.
  • Saturated Fat: 10 g.
  • Carbohydrates: 0.68 g.
  • Fiber: 0.16 g.
  • Protein: 8.45 g.
  • Cholesterol: 58.95 mg.

Keywords: fresh salmon, smoked salmon, butter

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